By Mac Danzig
Although there are other people at the controls, manning and updating my websites, I do read all of the mail, and the questions I get asked most often (hundreds upon hundreds of times now) are about my diet. All of the emails and letters are so hard to keep up with, so I finally sat down and decided to write a comprehensive look at my diet. I’m writing this on the fly, so even though it’s long, I will most certainly leave some important things out.. ‘Sorry’ about that in advance.
This is not going to be political or preachy. I am not here to push my beliefs on anybody. This is a chance for all of you who have asked for diet advice from me, to get some ideas and hopefully gain a better understanding of how easy it is for me to maintain athletic performance with the foods I consume. In the mean time, I will simply lead by example.
I noticed that a lot of fighters write down what they may generically eat on a given day and simply post that as their “diet”. I’m sure this leads to confusion with most readers and still leaves many questions unanswered. My diet, in particular is extremely varied and also very specialized.
As you will see, I eat completely differently when I am cutting to 155, than when I am simply in training without having a weight-cut… And even more differently than when I am lazying around, eating whatever I want and getting fat…
By no means whatsoever, is this ‘the gospel’ of vegan eating… I am just sharing what I do… It may work for you, it may not… Take what works and discard the rest.
I can tell you right now, I don’t spend nearly as much time doting over my diet as most people think.. I know what to eat and what not to, and following those guidelines, I’m looking to get it done with and get on with my day…
I usually don’t have the time to cook, so unless my girlfriend is cooking for me (she’s great), or I am eating at a restaurant, I am usually looking for something quick and easy…
A few articles on me have gone into detail on what my daily diet is like… This one in particular stands out: MMA digest article
Also, Mike Mahler happens to be the one person whose diet I followed in the beginning of my change to a vegan diet. He inspired me and I hope I can do the same for some of you… I urge you to check out his diet if you’re interested in mine.
Before I get into specifics, I’d like to address something that ties into the same discussion…
For the record, I cut dairy completely out of my diet in 1999 (over 5 years before I ever committed to a full-Vegan diet)… This was due to an allergy that I developed in my adolescent years to dairy that affected my sinuses and everything connecting to them. For a good part of my teenage years, I suffered from severe ear infections and chronic Vertigo (which is completely miserable). It took me a few years of to finally realize that the antibiotics were only temporarily subduing a much bigger problem. I did my research and finally found the source. A lot of people don’t realize how hard milk, whey, and other dairy products are on the sinuses and respiratory system, and the dairy industry would like you to believe that you need milk to get calcium. That notion is as oxymoronic as you can get. Although not everybody has as severe an allergy to dairy products as I did, I just wanted to point out that after years of battling with ear and sinus infections, eliminating dairy completely cured my problems. Anyone with similar problems may want to try it for a while.
Also, let me just say that although protein intake is important, especially for athletes, I find the usual listed “requirements” for protein are blown completely out of proportion, and the thought of consuming “1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight” during down time seems ridiculous to me… I truly feel that all the articles telling people to eat that way are written by people who copied the diets of fanatical body-builders and tried to present them to the general public. If you ingest that much protein a day, you’re taxing your liver and kidneys big-time… For example, I walk at 168lbs and I usually eat between 100 and 140 grams of protein per day when I’m in grueling, peak training… When I’m taking time off, I don’t pay attention to it and I’d say it’s usually around 70 grams a day, give or take…
One thing I consciously try and do is eat a higher amount of Alkaline-forming foods than acid-forming foods throughout each day… I don’t have time to get into the whole “alkaline foods” discussion, but I’ll just leave it out there, that there is plenty of info about it on ‘teh interweb’…
Ok, first here, I’m going to list some regular foods that I eat a lot of, along with an explanation on each one. Essentially these are of some basics that really make up a large portion of my weekly caloric intake…
Afterwards, I’ll list some broader ideas of diet, some supplements, then list some junk foods I eat and finally some daily examples…
Brown Rice: One of my main sources of complex carbs along with Oatmeal… I buy the ‘microwave in the bag’ frozen brown rice from Trader Joe’s… It’s pretty easy to make and can be added to almost any meal.
Wild Rice (actually a grass seed) is even better if you can get ahold of it.
Portobello mushrooms: These are great. Good protein source, low calories, low sodium… Can be sauteed or stir-fried with vegetables. I eat many of these when cutting weight.
Tempeh: This is a Tofu-based food and a good source of protein and fiber… Although a little bitter when eaten plain, I find that some flavorings can really make this good…
Quinoa: This grain is sometimes a chore to cook, and if you live in the middle of nowhere, it might be hard to find, but it’s a great source of not only carbs and protein, but fiber as well. This is one of the most nutritionally complete foods out there with a full, balanced set of amino acids…
Black Beans, lentils, etc: Really, many Mexican foods I find to be pretty substantial as long as there’s some beans and rice in it… Lentils are great in soup and have some decent protein and fiber… My girlfriend makes some really good lentil soup as well as squash soup.
Now, here are some things I will simply list and then explain how they work with my system.
Drinks: I drink water 99.9% of the time… Rarely do I ever feel the need for soft drinks or juices, although I might add some orange juice to a protein shake to make it taste better…
I drink in excess of 1.5 gallons of H2O per day when I’m training hard and about 1 gallon per day on the regular.
Wheat: My diet is not “wheat-free” but I do my best to avoid it… It’s an allergen (mild for most people) and not as easily digested you might think… Every now and then I have something that has wheat gluten in it as well… I’m not really into sandwiches, so bread is easy to avoid. I do eat pasta every once in a while and I might have some wheat tortillas, but if I had my choice of carbs, it’d be brown rice or quinoa. On a side note, they have come out with some good rice-based pastas that are identical to normal wheat pastas in every way.
Fake meat products: These are usually geared towards people making the change to vegetarianism and are made to mimic various meat products… I usually don’t mess with these all that much, with the exception of “riblets” made by Gardenburger brand… Most of the stuff out there doesn’t taste anything like meat to me (unless it’s seitan) and I don’t need my food to. Unfortunately, if you live in the midwest, or any place who’s stores haven’t adapted to vegetarian diets, you may find that these are the only things sold in the frozen section without meat or dairy… On the other side of this, many vegan restaurants have great fake meat products that are much more palatable than the stuff sold in the stores.
Vegetables: These are very necessary. I don’t eat them as much as I should, but when I do, it’s broccoli, peas, corn, green beans and spinach most of the time. Whenever I have a salad, I do my best to use organic kale or baby spinach as the main source rather than romain or iceberg lettuce. The leafy greens like collards, spinach and kale are extremely good for you.. Don’t sleep on them.
Nuts & seeds: I find almonds are the best for me. Some articles have stated that they boost testosterone… I can’t say that’s true or false, but I do find almonds to be superior to most of the other nuts and seeds out there…
Trader Joes sells raw, sliced almond flakes that can be turned into powder (if you have a chopper) and put into a protein shake.
I do eat peanuts sometimes, and natural peanut butter, but too many peanuts can be bad for you because of the naturally-occurring toxins in them. I eat cashews in moderation, and I usually stay away from Macadamias when I’m cutting weight because of their high fat content. I don’t eat as much seeds as I probably should, but Pumpkin seeds are definitely recommended… They are high in iron, which is important, because as an athlete, iron can be lost rapidly through sweat. Sunflower seeds are also pretty good and are a decent source of protein and vitamin E…
Seitan: although this stuff is delicious and has the most meat-like texture, it is essentially just wheat gluten and is pretty hard to digest… I stay away from it when I’m in hard training, but during the off-season, it’s fair play. Many restaurants have good meals with seitan.
Soy milk, almond milk, etc: I don’t eat cereal all that much, but when I do, I prefer almond milk and rice milk over soy milk… Just a personal preference. These can be added to protein shakes too. Rice milk is a little thinner that almond and soy usually…
Sodium: Many of the foods I really enjoy have a lot of sodium in them. I have no problem eating moderately sodium-rich foods until I get close to cutting to lightweight… Sodium causes you to retain water, so it’s pointless to consume if you want to drop water weight. 3 weeks before a fight, I start watching my sodium intake, and by the week of the fight, I’m down to less than 100 grams per day.
Vega : This is awesome. It has everything I need and it’s quick and easy. Although not ideal, I could really live off of this with no problems. Full nutrition. Vega makes powdered whole food meal replacements and energy bars that I eat pretty much every day. Their meal replacement uses hemp protein and pea protein as a base. When I’m taking this and/or The Ultimate Meal (see below) I find there’s no reason for a multi-vitamin.
The Ultimate Meal : I swear by this stuff, it’s a whole meal and has made up a huge part of my diet for 3 years now. It’s a bit of an acquired taste, but I truly notice myself feeling better when I use it daily. Remember to follow the directions and add the apple and banana. (This is not your normal “add powder to water” supplement)
Organic food bar : These are great for cutting weight… there is some fat but it’s good fat, and there’s hardly any sodium. Made of mostly almond butter and date paste.
Cliff Builders Bar : As far as protein bars go, these are the best tasting and pretty addictive… There’s a decent amount of sodium and calories, so they’re not ideal when you’re cutting weight.
Protein powders: I stay away from soy as a powdered protein supplement, and not because of the idiotic claim that it is “bad for men because it boosts estrogen” (which is complete nonsense), but because it doesn’t have a full amino acid spectrum and has less protein content percentage… Instead of soy powder, I use brown rice protein from Nutri-Biotic brand when I’m looking for plain protein supplement. Nutri-Biotic Rice protein has an 80% protein content and all the amino acids. I also find that Rice protein is digested a lot easire than soy.
I eat a ton of soy ice cream and vegan cookies when I’m not dieting… This is my weakness, but my metabolism burns most of it off…
Also, I eat a lot of Thai food from vegan restaurants that, although normally not considered ‘junk-food’, certainly has a lot of fat and sodium. Example: Yellow Curry (made with coconut milk) with tofu and deep fried soy “chicken”… Oh yeah, I’m a potato chip fiend too…
Even with all the sugary stuff I indulge in, I do my best to completely avoid high fructose corn syrup.
Ok, here is an example of just one day of my diet leading up to a lightweight fight that I posted on a blog a while back…
You must remember that this week and next are atypical of what I’d normally eat calorie-wise daily compared to, say, a month or more out… There is no way I could sustain this low-calorie diet for long periods of time… I love vegan cookies and Thai Food too much.
Morning: woke up at 166lbs and after a short 35 minute run and some calisthenics, I had The Ultimate Meal, which is a pulverized meal replacement. I swear by this stuff. There isn’t a single other product out there that comes close to this as far as recovery goes in training. Put it in a blender, add some water, an extra scoop of rice protein powder, an apple and a banana and I’m good to go. 400 cal
Noon time: Organic food bar 300 cal
Afternoon: Low-carb tortilla chips with Salsa. Soy yogurt with Fresh Pinapple. 350 cal
Mid Day: After working a private lesson at 3pm, and then at 4:00 sparring, consisting of five 5-minute rounds with 30 seconds rest and finishing with jump-rope interval training, I had a Clif Bar immediately to replace glycogen and help speed up recovery so I can function in my third workout. 250 cal
Evening: Rice Noodle mushroom soup with sautéed high-protein tofu added. Fresh pineapple. 300 cal
Night: After my Night workout in west LA, which consisted of 45 mins grappling, followed by ab work, I had a Clif Builders Bar and a rice protein shake. 350 cal
Last meal: Salad w/ baby greens, artichoke, olives, mushrooms, high-protein grilled tofu and light goddess dressing. Fresh strawberries and grapes for dessert. 300 cal
So that’s 2250 calories total, which is fine since I’m training 3x a day. The next week I’ll start to taper off my training and cut out all the sodium, so that I’m not retaining water.
Here’s an example of a typical (non-weight cutting) training day:
Breakfast: Oatmeal and soy yogurt with fruit.
Snack: almonds and dried cranberries
Sauteed zucchini and mushroom and ‘garden’ flavor tempeh with curry dipping sauce.
Vega shake, Clif Builder Bar.
Snack: Tortilla chips and Guacamole
Brown rice pasta with fresh portabello’s and eggplant and marinara sauce.
Coconut sorbet with pineapples.
Ok… well, I hope this answers at least a few of the diet questions some of you may have, and if not, I don’t know what to say… It took me almost 7 months to get around to writing this, so who knows when my lazy ass might get around to writing more…
Thanks for all the feedback and positive emails, you guys… Even though I can’t always write back, I hope all of you understand that I’m grateful to have such loyal and intelligent fans!
For more information on Mac check out www.MacDanzig.net.